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2016 Conference Top Takeaways

Why go to a conference? More specifically, why go to a SMPS conference? How do you determine whether you should attend the regional or national SMPS conference?

SMPS conferences attract hundreds of business developers and marketers to dive into trends within our industry, offer information to better differentiate your firm from competition, and highlight information to guide firms to thrive in existing markets. Yet, how do you pick which conference to attend if you are only able to participate in one?

The good news? You will benefit by attending any conference! However, there are a few different things to consider when making your decision!

Here are just a few reasons to attend Build Business: it is the only national business development, marketing and management conference for the design and building industry; you will expose yourself and your firm to top marketers and business developers throughout the entire country; you learn about the top trends in our industry from around the U.S; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development; increase your referral business and gain direct access to the decision-makers in the client organizations in hot markets! 

Here are a handful of reasons to head to the Southwest Regional SMPS conference:  you will meet hundreds of marketers and business developers who are located within your own region; you will learn about the hot trends closer to home; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development and build relationships with more members from within your own chapter! 

Check out some of my favorite takeaways from Build Business and some of our members’ key takeaways from the Southwest Regional Conference.

Five Great Takeaways from Build Business: Synthesis

1. Don’t sell yourself short and be ambitious!
No one likes to be asked a question they don’t know the answer to. Saying “I don’t know” or “No” can leave you feeling uninformed or behind. Instead, try incorporating the word “yet.”

For instance, if someone asks you if you are proficient in Adobe Illustrator and you aren’t, try answering with, “not yet” instead of with ”no.”

2. The what, who and how are the most important elements of a proposal.
The most important pieces to the proposal are the cover letter, fee and resumes. Selection panels want to know what it is you plan to accomplish (cover letter), with who (the team) and how much is this going to cost (the fee).

3. Be in permanent beta mode.
We’ve all seen the reference ‘beta mode.’ Companies will often label new products as “beta phase” or “beta testing” to emphasize that the product is not complete and improvements are on the way. Apply this to yourself!

Keep learning, stay relevant and train your mind to be in permanent beta mode. Remember that your career is a work in progress. 

4. The best qualities of a great leader:
Great leaders have strong convictions, develop visions, develop high performance culture, convince rather than control, and are continually learning.

5. Most often, management of ourselves and how well we manage relationships with coworkers determines success or failure in a job.
It is so important to be self-aware! It is easy to say what others could be doing better, but have you taken a second to evaluate yourself and your attitude lately? Managing your relationships with your coworkers is important. If you build that relationship early on, you will trust each other and work better together as a team.

Five Great Takeaways from Southwest Regional Conference

1. “An RFQ/RFP is not a subpoena – you do not have to respond.”
Sometimes it feels like we are blindly throwing darts at a dartboard, hoping one of them will stick. We can fall into the trap of responding to every RFQ or RFP that is sent our firms’ way. However, it is important to look at the RFQ/RFP and decide whether it makes sense for your company to submit. Then, set up a go/no-go meeting to help determine that final decision. Remind your teammates that it’s not a subpoena, and you do not have to respond.

2. Learn, Do, Master, Teach.
Many of us are in roles in which we set up conferences, training sessions or even interview preparation meetings. When determining learning objectives for a conference or training session, you want to cover all types of learning styles. The three objective types are affective, cognitive and behavioral:

      • Affective - relates to moods, feelings and attitudes
      • Cognitive – of or relating to cognition/learning
      • Behavioral – involving, relating to or emphasizing hands-on learning

 3. You have the power!
We all have power – whether it’s positional or personal power and a corresponding weapon of influence. Leverage your power to do something positive and position yourself as an expert.

4. The 5-50-100 Rule.
Turn your relationships into opportunities! Of 150 connections that we are able to maintain, 100 are peripheral, 50 should be strategic partners, and five should be trusted advisors that help you support your journey fully!

5. Focus on how great your client is, not how great you are
Before you start a proposal, ask yourself a few questions:

      • How will you show the client your passion for this project?
      • What’s the client’s vision for the project?
      • How will you use your IQ to connect with the client?
      • How will you use positive attitude to come across as confident, not arrogant and make you potential client at ease with who they are?
      • What story will you share that exemplifies you and your companies’ integrity?

If you’re starting to see the value that SMPS Conferences can bring to you and your firm, now is the time to speak to your employer and plan/budget for the upcoming events in 2017-2018. The next Build Business Conference will July 12 – 14, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN. For more information, visit:  The next Southwest Regional Conference will be in January 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Keep a look out on  for more details in the coming months.

If you need more concrete data to convince your employer, check out this article written by Cricket Robertson, Immediate Past President and CPSM, about how to earn a greater ROI on your conference attendance here

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves hot yoga, basketball, cooking and spending time with her newborn niece, Halle. 


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New Year, New Me – The Productivity Fumble

As the end of 2017 approaches, we find our workload getting heavier and heavier. End of year reports, last-minute submittals and deadlines that just seem to keep creeping up. But despite the end-of-year rush, the new year is just around the corner and we cannot help the feelings that come along with that—a clean slate, a fresh start, a metaphorical reset button for all the goals we maybe didn’t quite get to in 2017.

Whether or not you are the New-Year-Resolution-type, below are some tips to make sure you get a running start into the New Year.

“New Year, New Me”
I’m going to tell you the one thing you don’t want to hear – you aren’t a new you. You’re the same you. But you know what?  That’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. You are the same person who made that tight deadline everyone thought was impossible. The same person who brought an innovative and creative flair to your workplace. The concept of new year, new me is a fallacy. Instead, think ‘Same me, but better’.

Whether your goals are to chase a promotion, live a healthier lifestyle, or get around to that vacation to Greece you’ve been wanting to book for too long to remember—create a big picture goal and work down from there. What are small steps you can take toward achieving that promotion?  Let your intentions be known. Take initiative, don’t wait for someone to ask you step up and make that extra effort. For a healthier lifestyle, make smaller changes that add up to bigger results. Go for a walk every day. Get a fitness tracker and invite your friends to competitions so you have accountability to more than yourself. Take all the junk food out of your house. Replace one meal a day with a healthy alternative. What about that vacation?  Make a savings goal. Chart your progress each time you hit a milestone. Put a picture of the Anthem as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself of what you are working toward.

Take little steps toward that goal. You’ll get there sooner than if you never started.

Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
Recognize that things worth having are hard to obtain and the only way to get them is through sincere dedication. You’ve got to play an active role in your happiness; it has to be a choice. By announcing your interest for a promotion, your committing to the level of effort it takes to get there. By choosing to rise a half-hour early everyday to make time for that walk, you’re making a choice to commit to your fitness goals.

Immerse yourself completely
When I set out to make my resolutions, I don’t make a handful, I typically focus on one. Then I build myself slowly around that goal. Last year I told myself I wanted to be published before the end of the year. I made time every day to write, spent time every weekend sending query letters and for every rejection I submitted two more. I listened to writing podcasts and audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I froze my Netflix subscription and started reading more books. Essentially, I focused every bit of my energy on obtaining that one goal. Before I knew it, I had four short stories published.

It may feel like you are shoveling rock from a sitting position. But you’re not – you are building a mountain. And you can’t get to the top without making your way up that hill.

Taryn Marie Herbert 
Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Rider Levett Bucknall 

Taryn joined the AEC industry in 2015 and is a corporate marketing coordinator with RLB. She joined SMPS last year and loves the organization. She is part of the publicity branch working on the social media committee. Taryn loves creative writing - she's ben published several times! She loves to read, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time. 

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The Power of WHY

The number three is an important number. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Three Stooges. The Three Musketeers. There are three primary colors. All graphic designers and photographers know the rule of thirds. It’s a powerful number – and it also has significant meaning for our Chapter.

 Last year, Cricket launched a three-year strategic plan to help us be deliberate in continually engaging our members, improving our resources, and increasing opportunities for growth and learning. This year, we’re continuing the momentum for year two. As a part of that effort, the incoming Board of Directors participated in a strategic planning session in June. We had the privilege of hosting Society President Elect, Craig Galati, AIA, FSMPS, CPSM. Craig facilitated the session and helped us “check in” on our strategic plan and refocus on goals and objectives to support the plan. From that session, three goals emerged for the year: 

  1. Increase value to members and emphasize advocacy for the profession
  2. Focus on quality over quantity of programming
  3. Communicate value to both members and non-members through targeted strategies

Those goals tie in directly to our Chapter’s mission statement:

To Advocate, Educate, and Collaborate
for the A/E/C industry to build business for a thriving economy.

This year’s theme is the power of WHY. This comes from Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED Talk and subsequent book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon’s message is powerful. He talks about the WHY, how, and what of a company or organization; also known as The Golden Circle:

  • The WHAT of a company/organization is pretty simple—every single company on the planet knows what they do
  • The HOW of a company/organization is often given to explain how something is different or better than other companies or organizations.
  • WHY? Very few people can clearly articulate why they do what they do – what is your purpose, cause or belief? Here lies the inspiration. What is your why?


By itself, an arrow is just a flimsy piece of wood. But pick up a bow, and pull that arrow backward 180 degrees from its target, and you’ll find that it becomes unstoppable.

SMPS Arizona is in a great position and we have so much positive momentum. As we move forward into our three-year strategic plan, let’s focus on our WHY – as individuals and as a Chapter. We are all leaders, no matter what level we are at in our jobs or careers. We impact others every day, whether we realize it or not. What inspires you? What’s your cause? What are you passionate about? What would you do TODAY, if you knew you could not fail?

I’m excited to be where we’re at now. We have so many new members discovering the value of SMPS and becoming involved in the Chapter. Combine those new members with our dedicated 10-, 15-, and 20-year members, and we have a knockout team of fresh ideas combined with solid knowledge. There are still so many great things to come. I’m looking forward to the future of SMPS Arizona and can’t wait to see many of you at one of our upcoming events!

Maureen Varela, CPSM
Marketing Manager, Pulice Construction Inc.

Maureen joined the A/E/C industry in 2006 and has been employed by Pulice Construction since 2010. She has been an active member of SMPS for a decade and is enjoying her role as current Chapter President. Many know Maureen as the hard-working Marketer that she is,  but few know about her passion for adrenaline! Over the years, she’s tried out ziplining, skydiving, rappelling, and white water rafting, and she’s always on the lookout for the next adventure.

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Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight is 20/20 – looking back over the last decade of SMPS involvement, I would have never guessed I would be Chapter President. I can honestly say that each opportunity I’ve had with SMPS has changed my life in some way. Being the Arizona Chapter President was a life-changing position and it is great to be able to look back at the last two years with a complete perspective. Wow … what a ride! When I started this journey two years ago as President Elect, I honestly didn’t know what to expect or what would unfold. I could not have anticipated it fully— which is probably a good thing. I learned life lessons and grew both personally and professionally more than I thought possible. The lessons are numerous, but the following three had the greatest impact:

The only failure is to not try. I was so afraid of failure when I started, but a conversation with our very own, Barbara Shuck, at the President Leadership Symposium (PLS), helped put things in perspective: failure is a part of the experience and I’m not trying if I’m not failing. Some things will work and some things won’t, but I won’t know unless I try. I was able to change my perspective to lessons learned. I made numerous mistakes along the way, but I always put my best foot forward and tried to do the right thing. Experiences are always a double-edge sword; while we would change things if we had to do them again, it’s going through those experiences that make us the people we are today.

It’s not life or death. Anyone who knows me knows I drink the SMPS Kool-Aid, but I had to remind myself that SMPS is not life or death. SMPS is priority #3 after our personal and professional lives. No one is going to die if SMPS things don’t get done. Being President does bring some pressure and responsibility to ensure things are moving forward, but I also had to remind myself that my job was to orchestrate and not to do everything on my own. If things didn’t get done, I could address the why, but I couldn’t force anyone to follow through on their commitment.

Nothing in life that’s worth it is easy. Being President is a lot of work, there’s no getting around that. But at the end of the day it was worth it! I learned life lessons, things about myself, and grew more than I would have ever imagined. I followed through on my commitment to SMPS, and more importantly to myself.

I am so incredibly grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to the board, and entire leadership team, for everything you did last year. Our Chapter is truly amazing with tremendous momentum and energy. I am truly honored to have served as chapter President. I’m so excited to see where our incredible President, Maureen Varela, will take us!

Cricket's Year as SMPS AZ Chapter President

About the Author:
Cricket Robertson, CPSM
Marketing Director, Corbins Electric

Cricket is the Marketing Director at Corbins Electric and the Past President of SMPS Arizona. Cricket is a huge SMPS advocate who took up rowing last year! She is now on the Rio Salado Rowing Club Novice Crew!

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Diss Vs. Bliss: A Tale of Two Minds

Hey SMPS Arizona! The Call for Nominations for the 2016 -2017 Leadership Team is due one week from today and if you’re on the fence about submitting, we’ve got a blog post for you.  Whether you’re a newcomer nervous to take the leap or a tenured member not sure if leadership is right for you, here’s a little comic relief to help you sort out your own inner-dialogue.


“You’re pathetic,” that pesky little devil perching on my shoulder snaps at me as I open up the SMPS Call for Nominations Form.  “You’re not actually thinking of nominating yourself, are you?”  Her rhetorical question mark stands lingering in the air like a text bubble in a cheesy comic strip.  “I mean, no one nominated you for a reason…the last thing you should do is nominate yourself.” 

I knew she would say something like that.  She’s so judge-y; she’s so snarky; she’s so critical; she’s so MEAN! 

SHE, of course, would be me…or more specifically, the dark and extremely vocal side of my conscience…and she’s always ready and willing to stoke the fires of my ever-present self-doubt. If I ever need a quick kick in the gut, she’s the first one to show up, her steel-toed boots laced to the knee.  I’ve come to call her Miss Diss, and man does she deliver.

Of course, it’s not that her counterpart is some absentee participant in this on-going dialogue.  It’s just that her counterpart is much more subdued in her approach.  This would be Miss Bliss, whose style is typically sweet and reassuring and uplifting…and often overpowered by the constant onslaught of negativity emanating from my opposing shoulder.  Which is why her response to Miss Diss’ snide remarks came as such a surprise!

“Hey, why don’t you shut up for once and give her a break!”  Miss Bliss hollers around my aching neck.  She must have recently attended a course on assertiveness, I think to myself…that, or she just enrolled in a self-defense class.  Either way, this was a whole new side of Bliss that I was suddenly seeing…or rather, that I was suddenly hearing…

“Why do you always have to be so negative over there?” yells Bliss.  “If she nominates herself, it doesn’t mean that no one wants her on the team; it’s not like grade-school dodgeball.  Did you ever consider that maybe there are LOTS of people that would LOVE to have her on the team, but they don’t want to impose their will on her?  They might not be sure of her interest level and are waiting for her to tell them all about it.  Did you ever think about that?  Huh?  Did ya?!?!”  This was obviously a sensitive subject for Miss Bliss…she must not have been very popular in grade-school…

“Yeah, well why do you always have to bring up grade-school?” Miss Diss quickly retorts.  “It’s not my fault that you’re the most uncoordinated person on the planet.  You weren’t qualified to play then and you’re certainly not qualified to play now.  Why do you think this big talking head between us is so perplexed?  She remembers what it felt like to be placed on the team by the gym teacher while everyone rolled their eyes behind her.  You think she wants to relive that experience?  Just like you, she’s not qualified for any of the positions!  Just deal with it and get on with your…”   

KA-BOINK!  A giant red dodgeball hits Miss Diss directly in the thigh before she even has a chance to finish her thought.  “In case you haven’t noticed, Miss Snarky-Pants…a lot has changed since grade-school” Miss Bliss quips as her saucy Doppelgänger stands dumbfounded.  “Guess I’m qualified enough now to score on you,” she continues.  “So how ya like me now?! By the way, that’s 1-me; you-zip.”  

“Oh, it’s on…it’s ON!” screams an irritated Miss Diss, now flushed a bright red hue.  “You want to play?  Let’s play!  We’ll both be our own teammates.  First one to four hits/captures WINS.  And don’t forget, no crossing the center line!”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember,” scoffs Bliss.  But just so you know, win or lose, I’m still RIGHT.  Our girl can do it…and besides, if she’s not qualified now, how’s she going to get qualified if she doesn’t do anything about it?  You know as well as I do that she’s got to get out of her comfort zone and challenge herself if she really wants to get ahead in this world…and it could be exciting.  Like an adventure!”  Bliss was making some excellent points, even if Diss wasn’t at all ready to concede them.

“Well it’s going to be a lonely adventure, if you ask me.  She doesn’t know anyone at SMPS.  How’s she supposed to make this thing work when she’s got questions…and you KNOW she’s going to have questions.  She always does,” counters Diss with a hefty hurl of the ball in Bliss’ direction.

“Ha ha, you missed me!” Bliss yells back as she ducks down and quickly recovers her stance.  “Not knowing anyone isn’t a reason not to join; it’s a reason to join.  It’s a chance to meet the people that can help her become the leader that she is destined to be.  And as I recall, no one asked you…come to think of it, as I recall, you used to have a lot more skills than this!  What happened?”  Bliss dealt another quick zinger off of Diss’ thigh.  KA-BOINK!  She was enjoying this torment a little too much… “2-zip!”

“What happened is that I don’t have time to play dodgeball with idiots!”  Diss was clearly grasping at straws.  Why have I given her so much credit all these years?  “And neither does she!” Diss continues.  “You ARE right.  This isn’t grade-school; it’s real life…a life that she’s filled with work and pets and family…and work…work that pays bills.   PLUS, she’s got about a thousand hours-worth of Netflix to catch up on.  Don’t you want to know what happens on Season 5 of The Walking Dead?”  Hmmm, Miss Diss actually makes a compelling argument here…I have been wanting to catch up on my TV time…

Distracted for a split second by zombie-mania, Bliss is dealt a low blow in the stomach (of course) by Diss’ return throw.  BINK!  Diss was a real heavy-hitter…she wasn’t playing games anymore.  “1-2…watch out now, I’m coming up behind you…by the way, you’ve still got that ‘loser’ note from grade-school taped to your back.” OMG, I thought I burned that thing…

“Of course I want to watch Season 5,” Bliss manages to say between breaths, “but it’s not like we can’t watch itwhenever…it’s on Netflix for crying out loud!  And I know there are only so many hours in the day, but you make it sound like it’s impossible…like she should quit before she even starts!  I’ve never heard of such a ridiculous notion.  Anything is possible in her life if she makes it so, and she can still make the nomination deadline!”  Still catching her breath, Bliss flings a slow-moving ball and misses…

“Don’t sweat it, Bliss…you were never going to win this anyway,” mocks Diss as she stands clinging to the ball, reveling in the wicked satisfaction of her recent hit.  “Like the note says, you were born to lose.  But not to worry; there was nothing in it for her anyway.  We will all be better off when she skips this whole SMPS Leadership thing.”  Notably high on her own sense of superiority, Diss chuckles loudly and lobs the ball towards Bliss…only to have it caught! 

“That’s 3-1, Miss ‘Thang!’  says Bliss with a mischievous smirk starting to creep up the sides of her mouth. You can ‘yuk it up’ all you want, but you and I both know that the only reason I’ve ever had a note stuck to my back is because you put it there.  You’ve been feeding her a hefty load of crap for as long as I can remember.  There’splenty in this for her…it’s so obvious!” 

“Oh yeah?  Like what?”  Diss was never one to be easily dissuaded from a negative train of thought… 

But Bliss was getting her second wind and was ready with a comeback.  “Like maybe learning a few new skills to take with her back to her current position; like maybe developing leadership skills that could grow her career and open up new opportunities for her future…maybe even lead her to her dream job; like maybe the possibility of making best pals for life!  I guess maybe YOU could make that out to be nothing, but from where I stand, that’s not ‘nothing.’  Not ‘nothing’ at all.”

With that, Bliss jettisons a high-speed ball and catches Diss directly in the chest.  BOI-OINK!  “Boo-ya-ka-shaw!” yells Bliss before breaking into her infamous Roger-Rabbit dance maneuver.  “That’s the game!” teases Bliss as her opponent stands silent with a scowl. 

“That better not leave a mark,” Diss replies with a ‘sore loser’ look written all over her face.  “It wouldn’t for me, but I bet it will for you,” teases Bliss as she extends a friendly handshake while Diss stares back at her skeptically.  “Come on…at the end of the day we’re both on the same team,” says Bliss as she softens her approach towards a very wary Diss. 

“You want to hug it out or something?” Bliss asks with a hopeful expression.  “OK…hugs,” says Diss as her face returns to a normal shade of flesh.  “You might want to consider a shower,” says Diss as she embraces her cohort.  “You kinda stink…”


The Bottom line: Don’t let yourself be your worst enemy. We hope this post made you chuckle, calmed your fears, and helped you get one step closer to getting off the fence.  Here’s a recap of the common disses your inner Miss/Mister Diss may throw your way and some blissful reflections to disarm the negative thoughts.

  • Diss - You’re not qualified for any of the positions…
    A bit of Bliss: The whole point of taking on a new role is to LEARN and to GROW! There is no better way to challenge ourselves than to step out of our comfort zones.  CHALLENGES = EXCITEMENT
  •  Diss - You don’t know many people at SMPS and it would be super awkward…
    A bit of Bliss: There is no better way to get connected with this great group of professionals than to be part of the Leadership Team. A few months on Leadership Team and your physical network and your LinkedIn connections will expand (All-Star Level!), guaranteed! 
  • Diss - You don’t have time. Work, kids, Netflix…
    A bit of Bliss: We know that everyone is busy, but it’s amazing what investing a little time in SMPS does for you. Like stated before, you expand your network, learn new skills and get ample opportunity to try out your leadership skills! Many involved in the Leadership team wear the hat of manager, parent, organizational leader, etc. and still make time to serve on our team. Anything is possible if you make it so! 
  • Diss - There is no value in volunteering. What’s in it for me?
    A bit of Bliss: This answer is different for everyone.  We may not be able to guarantee how the value comes to fruition for you, but we do know that everyone takes away something positive from the volunteer Leadership experience.


About the Blogger:  Amy Villasana-Moore, CPSM is SMPS Arizona's 2016 Blog Chair, is a marketer and CRM super-geek, art and music enthusiast, fan of all animals, darkroom-trained photographer, recovering “workaholic” and movie buff.  She can meet you at the intersection of “strange” and “brew” and if the need arises, can have an entire conversation with you using only movie quotes.

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An Event to Remember

Doesn’t it seem like no matter how many hours you put into planning the “perfect” event, something manages to go wrong?  Sure, you’re the Event Planning Poster Child for dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, but somehow something will inevitably go astray.  Murphy’s Law, plain and simple!

If this describes your feelings about event planning, then you’re not alone.  Many a marketer before you have cursed the heaven’s in the name of Murphy.  But I think it’s time we cut ourselves some slack, because (here’s a newsflash) there is really no such thing as a “perfect” event.

I know, I know, I know; you like to think of yourself as the type of marketer who strives for “only the best,” but progress is better than perfection.  The more occasions that you organize, the better you will become.   And learning how to roll with the sometimes-painful punches that you encounter along the way is one of the key factors in success when you’re talking about planning and hosting an event.

This takes me back to the very first event that I ever helped to plan in A/E/C. This was actually less than a year ago and I cannot believe how much I have learned since then. Although it is a bit shameful to admit what I’m about to divulge, I am willing to publicly embarrass myself.  Why?  Because it’s okay  to make mistakes; in fact, most people learn more from their mistakes than they do their successes. 

Below are just the major errors that occurred during my very first event. Keep in mind, I was just an intern and overwhelmed beyond belief…but all disclaimers aside…

  • Time’s a-Wastin’. The catered food was 45 minutes late. I repeat, 45 minutes late! What is everyone’s favorite part of attending events? Free Food. My stomach literally turned in knots as the guests waited…and waited…and waited…for the food to finally arrive. Lessons Learned: It is better to cater with a business you are familiar with. Choose a company that you know you can rely on based on overall reputation, peer references and reviews, etc. Also, have the caterer arrive at least 30 minutes early to your venue, just as a precaution.  Hey, believe me, it’s better to pay a little extra to the caterer for time than it is to try to appease a room full of hungry people. 
  • Coffee Catastrophe. On top of the food disaster, we temporarily ran out of coffee for the guests half way through the event. This also happened to be an early morning event which of course means that plenty of coffee for everyone is not only needed, but expected. To say that I began to panic is an understatement. Lessons Learned:If a company says they will give you an “unlimited supply” of something, ask what their process is to refill the item prior to it running out and make sure that their process is bullet-proof…or at least reasonable.
  • Recess, Anyone? So you’re probably already noticing a trend here regarding food snafu’s…and here’s another one!  We paid for over-priced juice which we could have otherwise bought at Costco. When I was quoted for coffee and juice, I ignorantly assumed this included “fresh” juice.  Imagine my embarrassment when we ended up handing out mini DOLE juice cans.  It was just like recess again…I was halfway expecting my juice to come accompanied by a Power-Ranger’s lunchbox.  And yeah, we ended up running out of the juice cans as well…Lesson Learned: Never, ever, ever assume anything. Ask as many questions as you can when placing a large catering order, even if the questions seem profoundly silly! You should know exactly what is arriving on the day of your event.
  • Fashion Faux Pas: We ran out of the “preferred” shirt size that we were handing out to those in attendance. For whatever reason, I took our Superintendent’s word regarding sizing of shirts. Apparently, they thought the majority of the guests would prefer over-sized shirts.  As it turns out, very few attendees were interested in walking around in the polo equivalent of a dress. Lessons Learned: Never take someone’s word for what sizes you should order. If you know the guests well enough, then you’ll need to use your best judgement.  If you don’t know the gests well (or well enough), then anticipate for the majority of people landing somewhere in the middle of Small and XL and order the bulk of shirts accordingly.
  • My One Job: I had one REAL job to accomplish at the event…just one…and I totally flopped it.  I forgot to bring sharpies for the signing of the beam at the topping out ceremony. Yep, I planned an event focused on singing and placing the last beam on a building and somehow forgot to bring the pens. Lesson Learned:  Checklists are absolutely mandatory when planning an event.  Start creating lists as soon as your planning process begins. Check your lists over at least twice before the day of the event and have another person look it over to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
  • Wind Blown. Sure, a nice breeze is always welcome, but I didn’t anticipate such a blustery morning…one that would send table covers flying in all directions.  Then again, we do live in a Valley, so I guess I’m sort of off the hook on this one… Lesson Learned: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Variables beyond your control, such as the weather, are a reality of event planning. But you still have to be prepared.  Make sure that your event can survive, US Postal Service style (“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”).

If you don’t have “stress sweat” after reading my laundry list of event confessionals, then you’re obviously an event pro.  You are probably also wondering why I am giving advice about events after admitting to all of my mistakes.  But let me tell you, it only took one “bad” event for me to NEVER make those mistakes again. My next co-hosted event took place in September of 2015 and was a huge success. If it wasn’t for all that I had learned in my first event, I wouldn’t have been as prepared or planned as thoroughly for my second event.

So what else?  In addition to tips on what not to do when planning and hosting events, here are a few reminders to help you keep your sanity:

  • An Eye on the Prize. Hosting a successful event requires strategy, planning and execution. Identify your objective for the party and check back in throughout the process to make sure your planning efforts are aligning with the goal(s) of the event. This seems simple, but it can be easy to lose sight of why an event is really being organized in the first place if you’re not keeping your “eye on the prize.”

  • Insurance is Priceless. OK, not really; insurance definitely has a price tag, but you get the idea. Make sure to get vendor’s insurance in case of rare circumstances that have the potential to become huge liabilities for your company. If you are unfamiliar with this process, discuss it with someone at your company who is knowledgeable (typically a Contracts person or Executive).
  • Less is More? Not Really. A good rule of thumb is to send out invitations early enough so that you can use the RSVP’s to give you a close estimate on expected attendance. Of course, you should keep in mind that 1) noteveryone who RSVP’d will actually show up, and 2) many people who didn’t RSVP will turn up after all.  If you are in a time crunch to get back to the caterer, then it is safe to assume between 50% and 60% of your invited guests will attend (for most events). Either way, plan for more than enough of everything that you’ll need to satisfy the crowd;  it is always better to have extra than to run out.

  • Step Back. There is always room for improvement.  After each event, take a step back to reflect and evaluate what happened.  You can do this by passing out evaluation forms (if appropriate), or getting anonymous feedback from your peers after the event is over. Take notes and write down reminders for yourself so that the next even can be even more successful! 

  • Enjoy Yourself. Seeing a stressed out host makes people feel like they are burden, so keep this in mind:  no one will notice even half of the “errors” that occur in any given event.  We are often our own worst critic, but sometimes you have to just smile, adjust as the event goes on and try not to let it affect your attitude.

So there you have it.  Hey, no one said event planning was an easy task.  But if you can remember some of these tips, you can save yourself some of the most stressful of situations…like running out of coffee…eek! Just thinking about that still makes me cringe.

Event planning can be a fun and exhilarating creative outlet for Marketers, but YOU will ultimately set the vibe.  If you look at an upcoming event as a drag, then it will probably be a drag. So plan an unforgettable event and be ready to shine (and have some fun, too)!  After all, EVERYONE loves the host…


About the Blogger: Ashley Black is one of those millennials that everyone can’t stop talking about.  She’s motivated, driven and proud to be a new face in the Phoenix A/E/C industry. Ashley loves to write, volunteer and watch her favorite NBA team – the Golden State Warriors.  She’s ready to prove everyone wrong about “youngsters in the workplace” and promises to be a marketing professional you won’t soon forget.

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A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Maisha,

Be really nice to Tammy. And Tina. And Amanda, Suzanne and Danielle. They all are going to play incredibly unique and important roles in your career. Despite the fact that you’re working in accounting right now, you’re going to find a career that you absolutely love one day. You’re going to be a marketing professional – a really good marketing professional – and a lot of that success will be due to the people you meet and connect with.

This might be against the time-travel rules, but I’m going to tell exactly how it’s going to happen so you can be ready. You’re going to apply for a job as a marketing coordinator and despite the fact that you’re under-qualified, Tina is going to hire you. Tina hires you based on the recommendation of her good friend Tammy. You and Tammy will have already crossed paths at a previous company where you helped her find lost diamonds and handled a jerk-boss with class and tactfulness.

You’ll meet Amanda while working for Tina. Observe everything she does because she’s smart, funny and fearless. She’s going to be one of the few work-friends you have in life, so it will break your heart when she leaves, but don’t panic; you’ll stay in touch. She’s going to become an economic developer for the Town of Gilbert where you will own a home so your paths will continuously cross.

You’ll meet Suzanne in the restroom while working with Amanda and Tina. She’ll be working for an architectural firm that shares the same building. Both of you will be laid off when your respective firms shutter their offices. Once you’re laid off, you’ll have lots of opportunities to consider, but Danielle will help you find a company that fits you best. As luck would have it, Suzanne will become your manager. Again, observe everything she does because this woman is the industries’ best-kept-secret and she too becomes a very dear friend. Suzanne will leave Jokake too, but she will have laid a good foundation for you to step into and grow. Incredible opportunities will come your way and the collective guidance of these women (and many other individuals) will help you navigate each of them.

I’m not really sure how this time-travel thing works, so in the event that my disclosure of such details will change the course of your life going forward, I want to leave you with a bit of advice that will be valuable to you:

Glean as much as you can from as many smart people as you can. Find mentors, both within your company and outside of it. Respect their time and their knowledge. Ask questions and really listen to their answers and wisdom. Separate the meat from the bones. Build your own board of directors – people who know their stuff and are willing to share it with you. Then, once you know a thing or two, become a mentor and share your knowledge with others.

Follow this advice and even if you don’t become a really good marketing professional, you’ll still become a really good person.

Love always,

P.S. That guy you’re dealing with right now…he is NOT the one!


About the Blogger:  As the marketing director responsible for internal and external marketing efforts at Jokake Construction, Maisha Christian Hagan occupies the space where strategic and creative business solutions intersect. She has a passion for people, a mind for business and a gift to teach – all skills that go to great use as Mentorship Chair for SMPS’ Arizona Chapter. Maisha is also a sought-after speaker and facilitator focusing on marketing strategy, S.M.A.R.T. goal development, DISC profile, corporate culture, brainstorming and communication, influence, and conflict resolution.

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Falling Up

You could ask almost any A/E/C marketer what it was that brought them into this industry and most will have their own unique tale of how they “fell” into it. But I can’t help feeling like there is a negative connotation associated with “falling” into this industry…or any industry, for that matter. Perhaps it’s because the wording subtly implies that what you’re doing now is not exactly what you had envisioned for yourself as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school graduate excited by the notion of the rest of your life. Or maybe you were already a seasoned professional but needed any job you could get just to make ends meet. Or maybe, just maybe, you were already in A/E/C but marketing just became your job one day because no one else wanted to do it. Thanks for the promotion! I think…

Whatever the case may be for us A/E/C marketers, I am left with a single recurring thought. It’s more of a question really, which I now submit to you. Is falling really so bad? For better or for worse, “falling” into A/E/C marketing changed my life. It marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for me, as I’m sure it did for many of you. But we will all have to come to our own conclusions about the impact of those changes and our perceptions of the paths that we have traveled since.

The Fall (for me)

I graduated from ASU with a Journalism degree a handful of years ago. Of course, I didn’t take the typical journalism route with Print or Broadcast. No, I choose the more ambiguous career path of Public Relations. This was right in the middle of the recession, too, when recovery was nowhere in sight. Picture this: a super-green graduate who didn’t really know exactly what she wanted to do except that she was interested in PR. That was me! Imagine my surprise when I started looking for entry-level PR jobs and found myself vying for those positions alongside experienced professionals. I think it goes without saying that my prospects were dismal. This predicament led me to something I knew how to do well but wasn’t exactly exhilarated by – a Receptionist position.

I had worked for this firm throughout my college career as a part-time Receptionist and they were looking for someone to go full-time just about the same time that I finished my degree. Although I felt somewhat deflated by the status of the position, I was feeling the need to be financially free, and it was the best offer that I had to date. At the time, it seemed like a temporary solution but little did I know where it would actually lead me.

Surprisingly, it felt pretty good going back to my old job and it was indeed comforting to have a job considering the job market was extremely slim. However, my enthusiasm only lasted six months…which in retrospect wasn’t that surprising at all. When low and behold, just when I thought all hope was lost, my Marketing Messiah strolled right through those lobby doors and introduced herself as the new Marketing Manager. As she settled in and I started to see what marketing entailed, it dawned on me that Marketing and PR weren’t all that different after all. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I could do marketing, too!”

I got to work on establishing a dialogue of sorts, casually slipping in hints that I had actual marketing skills and that Icould in fact help make her life easier. These conversations were the beginning of a relationship that led to a year of learning, growing, and even the production of marketing materials by “yours truly.” It was beyond EXCITING! Sadly, my marketing efforts weren’t going to lead to a real marketing position…at least not for a while. It just wasn’t in the cards for the company to add another marketing person at that particular point in time.

Despite my bruised ego and brewing frustrations, I felt deep down that this couldn’t just be IT for me. Was I really destined to be a Receptionist for the rest of my life? Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Receptionist, but I couldn’t accept “yes” as the answer to that question. I realized then that I had learned enough to market myself as a Marketing/PR professional. That year of training hadn’t left me empty handed; it was time to take this show out on the road!

Within the first month of my job search, a Marketing Coordinator position was revealed to me like a sign from God. Before I knew it, I had an interview scheduled and two days later an offer letter waiting in my inbox. I have come to the conclusion now that this opportunity was a God thing, like divine intervention. But it actually started out as an SMPS thing. My Marketing Messiah had encouraged my involvement in SMPS, and I had been extremely diligent in meeting as many people as I could. I just wanted to absorb all the awesome experience of the professionals around me, which led me to an introduction with my would-be recruiter and my future boss. Behold, a miracle! I had stumbled across a marketing position by way of my old college job, and had allowed myself to “fall” through the barrier that had been Reception…landing pleasantly in A/E/C marketing.

The Landing

I think the notion of “falling” into marketing for A/E/C is all in your perspective. For me, it was more like “falling up.” I didn’t scrape my knees on the way down. It was more like taking advantage of an opportunity to challenge myself, utilize my strengths, and grow as a professional. The “fall” gave me a path when I thought I didn’t have one. It paved the way towards excellent mentors, colleagues and even friends all of whom I am forever grateful for. Three years later, I’m still “falling” and loving every minute it of it.

How to “Fall Up”

What is my advice to all my fellow A/E/C administrators and receptionists out there who want to “fall up” into marketing?

  • Find a marketing mentor. Reach out to the Marketing Manager/Coordinator at your company and find out more about their marketing needs. I bet you a pretty penny that they have a lot on their plate and would love to share the load. They may even be seeking another marketing person and may be having trouble making leadership understand their need. If you could help in marketing and get promoted from within, it would be win-win situation for the both of you. No Marketing people at your company? Come to SMPS and get connected with those that can help you explore opportunities within the industry. Hey, you can even call me (seriously, my contact info is on the “Contact Us” page of SMPS AZ’s website) and I will help get you moving in the right direction.
  • Harness your inner Marketer! Do you have a secret obsession with graphic design? Maybe you’re a former English major who’s chomping at the bit to get your “write on.” Whatever your passion may be, take note of your skills and evaluate how they might be useful to the marketing department. The next step is beyond easy. Let it be known that you have marketing skills to offer and ask how you can help. When I was first learning about A/E/C marketing, I realized that a lot of my PR skills were comparable and all I needed was the opportunity to put them to good use. Plus, who doesn’t love someone who helps lighten their load?
  • Network, Network, Network. For goodness sakes, get yourself to an SMPS meeting ASAP. SMPS has so many options like Marketing Council (only $15 bucks), Leverage Your Beverage (networking central) and our Monthly Programs (an education in A/E/C happenings) to choose from. This is not just a shameless plug for the organization; I can honestly say that without SMPS, I wouldn’t be here today. I will be forever thankful that my marketing mentor dragged me to all those SMPS events, just so that I could get some exposure to the organization and the cool people within the SMPS network.

I hope that all of you out there mulling over the thought of a career path in A/E/C marketing are able to eventually take a leap of faith and embrace the chance to “fall up.” Hey, if it could happen for me, there’s no reason it can’t happen for you!


About the Blogger:  Roxy Kinsinger is the Marketing Coordinator at Pulice Construction, Inc. and serves as the 2015-2016 Publicity Director for SMPS Arizona. When she’s not sharpening her marketing skills, Roxy spends her weekends dabbling in an assortment of hobbies. Lately, she has been experimenting with essentials oils, taking a stab at gardening, and now blogging. Roxy does have a few staple hobbies that never lose their luster including baking, musicals, and hiking with her husband.

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Two Truths & a Lie

Have you ever played Two Truths and a Lie? Do you want to play a quick round with me today? What?!?! You’ve never played before? No sweat…the game is about as simple as they come. I tell you two truths and one lie; you try to guess which of the three is a total fabrication. OK, here we go!

Scenario 1: “Make ‘er Purty”

I’m at work and my boss stops by my desk, eager to give me a new assignment. He says that he has emailed me a report that he started and that all I have to do is ‘make it pretty.’ You know, just make it look nice and make sure it meets our corporate standards (insert eye roll here). “Oh, and by the way,” he continues to say, “I’ll need that in an hour. The client is expecting it.” Ugh…and I imagine myself smacking him across the face…with a live audience applauding me in the background like in a TV sitcom.

My actual response? "Yeah, no problem boss; I’m your miracle worker for the day." Little did I know that I might actually have to perform a miracle to complete the task at hand. Because when I opened the report, it was 10 pages long and nowhere NEAR our corporate standards. In fact, he even managed to send it to me in comic sans font. Yeah, it was THAT bad! The icing on the cake? He threw in some “filler text” for areas of the report that he thought I could just ‘fix up’ for him. Hmmm…

Scenario 2: “Back by Day Two”

I’ve just given birth to my beautiful baby. In fact, it’s only been 24 hours since the actual birth and I’m still at the hospital…just waiting on my discharge paperwork so I can take my baby home. Then my phone rings. Guess who; my boss. “How nice,” I think to myself. “He must be calling to congratulate me!” Warm fuzzies all the way around, right? Too bad that’s not AT ALL the reason that he had called.

The real reason? He wants to know if I can come into the office tomorrow to work on something that has to be done. Apparently, I’m the only person in the entire office who knows how to do it. REALLY?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?! I look longingly down at my one-day-old baby in her bassinet…then agree to come in to the office. The next day, I'm at my desk working with my two-day-old splayed across my chest.  Hmmm...

Scenario 3: “Nasty-Gram”

I’m headed in to downtown Phoenix for an early morning meeting with a client at the City. Right before the meeting, I realize (as a 13-week pregnant woman often does) that I need to stop by the ‘ladies’ room for a quick pit-stop. But when I get there, I discover a major issue...MAJOR issue. I AM HORRIFIED!!! I run out of the restroom and tell my client that I need to leave IMMEDIATELY.

Within the 40-minute drive home (which, by the way was sheer panic and terror), I manage to call my husband AND my office. I have two meetings with clients lined up for the day that really shouldn’t be canceled, so I assign people from my office to cover the meetings for me. I even have the clear-mindedness to download/send the meeting agenda along with the other items that they’ll need to take with them. With the clients totally covered, all remnants of work obligations quickly disappear and I begin fearing the worst…

What I didn’t realize was that one of the clients would be upset by my lack of attendance at that one meeting on thatone day. So upset, in fact, that he would send me a nasty-gram about a week later stating that “because of ‘lack of proper attendance’ at the meeting, we just don’t feel that you are dedicated to the project and the deadline and we may have to find another firm to finish our project.’  Hmmm...

Which is Which?

So now you want to know which of the two scenarios are true and which one is a total fabrication, right? I’m sure you’ve got your own suspicions, but before I divulge the answer, I’d like to pose a question in an effort to put ALL THREE scenarios into perspective. Here goes…

Does it really matter which one is the lie?  They are ALL nightmares…nightmares brought on by the simple fact that sometimes, people SUCK. When did we lose our hearts? At what point did deadlines, budgets and project parameters become more important than how we treat each other and even ourselves?

A Few “Truths”

The A/E/C industry is dominated by endless deadlines, ridiculously low budgets and the ‘almighty dollar.’ I would venture a guess that many of my colleagues put in more than 40 hours per week…possibly even more than 55 hours. Usually because somewhere along the line, someone arbitrarily decided that it would take their team two weeks to finish a project that should actually take no less than six. And this casual decision was probably fueled by an underlying need to fill the backlog and an overriding urge to impress the client.

Never mind that long-term BD efforts are really how the backlog gets filled…the two-week schedule is set and the boss leaves it to the team to make up that time. But when do we, as A/E/C professionals, finally say “enough is enough?”  

Before I get to the “big reveal,” I’d like to explore a few of the truths behind the current state of A/E/C that I (or at least the part of me that hugs people and trees) find extremely appalling.

  • Truth 1: At some point during the recession, both public and private entity owners discovered that they could really squeeze A/E/C firms and require the presentation of full design options DURING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS. The thrill of getting shortlisted is now overshadowed by a sidebar of ‘provide your design ideas during the interview.’ So the owner wants us to provide FREE design during an interview that we have a 1 in 3 (sometimes 1 in 5) chance in winning?!?! The owner obviously doesn’t realize, or perhaps doesn’t care, that we now must take a team of talented (and billable) professionals off of a job that is actually paying us in order to create a theoretic masterpiece...for free. FOR FREE!!! The ones that we lose, the ones that cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost crew time (not to mention printing costs, etc.)? I’ve been told that those are “just the price of doing business.” The “name of the game,” if you will. But I say it’s A/E/C professionals taking it up the…well, you get the idea. Let’s face it; this a step in the WRONG direction and it’s a total disgrace to our industry.

  • Truth 2: Ridiculous deadlines, pretty much ALL OF THE TIME. Let’s take for instance the onslaught of annual contracts that all come due around December 30th. I guess A/E/C professionals don’t really need a break to spend the holiday with their families. In fact, I’m fairly certain none of us even have families. We’re married to our computers, laptops and the office printers (I hope you smell the stench of sarcasm right about now). No seriously, what the "h" is with the deadlines the week after Christmas?!?! Do these owners think that we don’t want to take time to be with our loved ones? Or maybe it’s that we don’t really deserve a break. That must be what it is. Especially since many of them don’t even put out the new contracts with the shortlisted firms until APRIL. PUH-lease. This happens much more often than not. Can we get a wake-up call here?!?!

So there you have it; the “truth” according to me. Both speak to the heart of the matter; that we have forgotten about the people behind the deadlines, the budgets and all the hard work; that we have forgotten our hearts. But maybe I just need to go hug a tree; maybe our hearts can still be mended. But how?

Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer here. But I think the road to recovery begins within each and every one of us, and it starts with standing up for ourselves. The next time an owner wants to ‘cut the fee by ten percent,’ or ‘cut the schedule in half,’ we need to thoughtfully and professional explain why that isn’t realistic. Explain how cutting ten percent off of the fee is really cutting out a firm’s profit (and that without profit, there’s really no point to being in business). Explain that your firm’s values include having a team that goes home to their families at a decent hour every night. Make a commitment to hiring an appropriate amount of staff to cover extra work hours in the event of a long-term work bubble, and remind yourself that you won’t take on a project at the detriment of the very people that you employ. Hey, no one should have to work 80 hours a week on a regular basis…no one.

The Big Reveal

But enough procrastinating, right? Which one was which?

My “total fabrication” was the very first scenario...the "Make 'er Purty" scenario. Most people don’t guess that one because (in all honesty) this EXACT scenario has probably happened to each and every one of my colleagues at some point in their careers. I can only hope that at least one of them has had the guts to stand up for themselves...

That means that the other two are total truths and actually happened to me PERSONALLY.

In retrospect, the “Back by Day Two” scenario is a great example of when I should have stood up for myself. Instead, what did I say? “Yes.” I said yes. What a fool I was; what an idiot I was! The shame; the horror! How could I have?!?!? What I should have said was ‘NO, NOT MY PROBLEM...I've got family obligations right now.’ At the time, though, I didn’t have the gumption enough to tell my boss “no.” I wish I had; I still regret it to this day. The fact that no one else in that office could do what needed to be done should have shown them the value that I actually brought. Sadly, it took me several years before I realized that myself…and even more upsetting is that I don’t think they EVER came to that realization. Of course, I’m not there I guess I shouldn't care.

As for the third scenario, my “Nasty-Gram” scenario, it happened not that long ago. Not to worry, though; baby and I are doing just fine. But my client is still deciding whether or not he wants to fire me. I could care less if he does. Ifthat’s the cost of winning that job, then the price is too high for me…and I’m OK with that.

The Point

Yes, after all this rambling, I actually DO have a point…and here it is! Those of us who stayed the A/E/C course throughout the economic turmoil of the Great Recession came out the other side a little bit beat up and frayed. Many of us feel battered and bruised; our confidence waning. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give away our self-respect and forget our hearts. We are still in this industry because we are good at what we do; we survived; we made it. That’s the real truth.

We deserve better; we deserve so much more than what we have told ourselves is acceptable. And it’s about time that the A/E/C industry demands it. Essentially, we need a hug…if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of what it was about this industry that we loved and were so passionate about when we first started. I know I could sure use a hug. How about you?


About the Blogger: This anonymous blogger is a human-hugging caped crusader of justice for the A/E/C industry…self-proclaimed, of course...and a little sarcastic to boot.

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Spice it up! A 2016 Resolution

It’s a new year! Maybe it’s time to spice things up. Maybe that’s exactly what the doctor has ordered. Your work marriage is something to take great care of. We all have them; yes, even graveyard managers have a boss or an assistant or a partner that they just can’t live without. In many ways, this relationship can provide endless support, can salvage your very sanity and can even keep you employed for longer than you should be (in the worst of times). I’m sure you’re all thinking of your happy (or perhaps not-so-happy) work marriages right now.

I sadly realized something the other day. It was only one short year ago that I wasn’t yet a consultant; only one short year ago would I leave a potential client’s meeting and be so excited to talk about the opportunity with my boss that we would stop and chat in the parking lot before leaving the site. It didn’t matter if the weather was extremely hot or extremely cold; she was always excited too, and would listen no matter how long I went on. It was only one short year ago that I would also constantly check in, would regularly send updates about what I was doing and was generally excited when new things would come my way. I remember asking around to everyone on the team: “What’s going on with that project? Can I help at all? It looks great!!”.

Now that I’m a consultant, not so much. Over the course of a single year, my gears have shifted and are now furiously spinning about client opportunities that have been years in the works, the vast array of upcoming events that I continue to commit to, and the development of my own skills as each project gets completed. When I leave a meeting, I’m out the door. Other team member’s projects are almost the last thing on my mind unless I know I am a necessary and integral part. Even more sadly, I am acutely aware that I now rarely ask: “How is that going?? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks; something had struck already and I had barely tucked my one-year anniversary under my belt. What was it? An aloof mentality that strikes even the most well-intentioned of relationships. The thought process goes something like this: they know how much I love them and I don’t need to say anything to prove it. How I feel is shown in what I do. The flaw? Well, we already covered that didn’t we…what I do right now is aggressively focus on myself. Does that sound like a good partner to you? Not really…

The first thing that any decent therapist (or nosy co-worker) will do is bring to your attention that you aren’t being a very good partner. Then they will make you admit it. And yes, I had to admit it; I wasn’t being the partner that I knew I could be. Hell, I wasn’t even being the partner that I had been just a year ago! Ouch!!! But the best part about this painful admittance is that once it has happened, you can start down the path of “SPICING THINGS UP” and can transform yourself back into the amazing partner that you were at the very beginning of the relationship.

Since just about every Cosmo that I’ve ever ready assures me that I will see IMMEDIATE RESULTS with these Top 5 Relationship Tips, I thought they could be well applied to the work marriages in our illustrious A/E/C Industry…

  1. Notice the new things they do. When your special someone lands a new client, closes a project ahead of schedule or remembers to do that tedious task that is always forgotten, be sure to praise them! Positive reinforcement does wonders for future productivity. Mark my words…
  1. Remember the important days. Each year, celebrate major milestones with that go-to guy or gal and have a coffee (or even a drink) to recognize those hard-earned work anniversaries, those record-breaking sales or some awesome newly signed clients. These little get-togethers really emphasize the importance of your relationship, what you have achieved together already and what you can accomplish going forward.
  1. Get along with their family.  This one isn’t always easy, but in the A/E/C industry it’s a MUST. When your professional partner has close relationships in the industry (whether it be true family, long-term clients or internal roles that they closely rely on), remember to respect and include them in major decisions. This reminds them of how important they are to the team overall, above and beyond their relationship with your “work wife” or “work hubby.” Keep the group tight and you’ll all be stronger together!
  1. Keep your partner updated. Once again, we are all under insane deadlines; that’s no excuse. And let’s be honest; you really wouldn’t appreciate your special someone coming home two hours late for dinner. So why is it ok to be two weeks late on a deadline? This is tantamount to work marriage treason and is rarely punished to the extent it should be. Keep your partner updated on clients and project progress regularly and you will both be happier with increased peace of mind.
  1. Don’t “go to bed” angry. Last, but certainly not least, this relationship tip has stood the test of time. Going to bed angry with any work-related issues is sure to set off some alarms that rattles your brain until every last thought has been shaken out. Who can sleep with that heavy load weighting down on them. Even leaving the office before an issue has been addressed should be totally frowned upon. Make a resolution to send a text, leave a considerate and reassuring voicemail or even take a second to leave a damn note that says something like “this will be awesomely resolved” in whatever words you choose to use. This helps both you and your partner get the sleep you both deserve and puts the ball in their court.

Have you taken all of this in? Did you already take an inventory of your current work marriage relationship? What did you find? There’s no mystery here; all relationships require the same basic considerations to stay healthy. Even the A/E/C marriages that come and go throughout the lifespans of our careers. My resolution? To work on my work marriage and become a better partner…and maybe even bring roses and chocolate to meetings on occasion because, hey, I also feel that any meeting would benefit from something like that!


About the Blogger:  Between bike rides with the kids, Nicole Rodriguez “Major Marketing” juggles client meetings as an A/E/C industry consultant. She’s positively thrilled at any opportunity to shine, support and succeed, which usually means that she works part-time for SMPS as a volunteer in addition to her full-time position at TankGirl Marketing. Nicole thoroughly believes she can change the world one graphic, one event, and one client at a time and will never give up trying. She also believes that we are all lucky to be alive and well and able to read this very post!

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